I’m happy to welcome author Aida Brassington to our little corner of the blogosphere. She’s here today to talk about the challenges of writing male characters and how research comes into play when it comes to accurately portray men. Please help me give her a warm welcome!
Men communicate differently than women. I know this doesn’t come as a shock to you, but many writers find it difficult to deal with. It can be even more obvious when, let’s say, a female writer takes on a main male character written from his point of view.
Between Season’s protagonist is Patrick Boyle, a nineteen-year-old man who dies in 1970 and falls in love with the woman who buys his house forty years later. How do you write a guy in his late teens (and a ghost, at that) and make it believable? Well, for starters, you eliminate current slang from his vocabulary and do research on popular language from the late sixties. You give him feathered hair.
It’s more than just physical appearance and slang, though. The key to writing believable male characters when you’re a woman is understanding how men communicate. In a general way, of course – all men don’t think or act alike any more than all women think or act alike, but there are some things that have proven true through clinical study.
Like what? Well, take the way men interact with other men. Their relationships are generally less focused on emotions and more focused around activities – they talk about sports, house repairs. They trash talk as a way to cement friendship. So what does that mean? It means that you should probably never write a scene where two guys get together over tea and pour out their feelings, hopes, and dreams because unless there are extenuating circumstances, it’s not going to ring true.
And when men interact with women, there’s also a difference. Ever talk to someone of the opposite sex and get tongue-tied? It’s normal, but men actually experience a steeper decline in cognitive performance after such interactions. It’s true! Scientifically proven!
In general, though, these are ways in which men and women differ:
- Women are typically more expressive in terms of facial expressions, body contact, and verbally. However, while sitting men are usually more likely to be more expressive with body posture: sprawling, stretching, etc. While sitting, women draw in with their bodies.
- Women ask more questions designed to collect data and ferret out options. Men are more direct, and when arguing they focus on being right rather than discussing feelings. During a disagreement, men may perceive questions as threatening.
- Speaking of arguments, men tend not to apologize like women do (to maintain emotional connection) because the apology may lower decrease power in a relationship.
- Men and women tend to speak the same number of words per day, but men say more words at one time. Men talk more at work and use language to exchange information, while women talk more to friends and use language to talk about emotion.
I tried to keep these generalizations in mind when writing Patrick, and as a result reviewers say my characters feel very real to them, which is one of the best compliments I can get. A natural-feeling characterization really helped with crafting a very sweet and emotionally-satisfying romance as well, and isn’t that why we read? To get swept away?
About the author:
Aida Brassington lives in a haunted house in the suburbs of Pennsylvania with her husband of five years and a Great Dane named Patrick. She loves all things related to Halloween and spooky movies, but not because she shares her house with a ghost (and it should be noted her ghost does nothing more than occasionally appear in the second floor hallway and hide her keys) — she just likes being scared. She is a former political junkie with a deep interest in artisan food, reading, and scuba diving.
Aida is offering one e-copy of Between Seasons to one lucky commenter. All you have to do to win is leave a comment telling us who’s your favorite male character (I have lots of favorites but I really love Izzy Zanella from Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter series). Remember to leave an email so I can contact the winner.
- Winner gets one e-copy of Between Seasons by Aida Brassington (PDF, Kindle or Nook).
- Contest open internationally.
- Winner will be chosen using random.org and announced here and contacted via email and will have 72 hours to answer.
- Contest ends on Friday, December 16th 2011, at 5pm EST.
There are things Patrick Boyle will never forget: the sound of his own neck breaking at the moment of his death in the fall of 1970, the sweet taste of his mother’s chocolate cake, and the awful day his parents abandoned him in his childhood house-turned prison.
Nineteen-year-old Patrick wonders for decades if God has forgotten all about him or if he’s being punished for some terrible crime or sin over a lovely forty years trapped in an empty home. But when Sara Oswald, a strange woman with a mysterious past, buys his house, old feeling reawakens, and a new optimism convinces him that she’s the answer to his prayers.
Things are never simple, though, especially when she begins channeling the memories of his life and death in her writing.
Green Needle Press; October 30, 2011.